What the Tech? Detectives using DNA on genealogy sites to solve crimes
It seems every day there's news of a break in a cold-case killing. It happened this week when investigators in Alabama arrested a suspect in the murders of two young girls in 1999. It happened a year ago when police in California arrested a suspect in the Golden State Killer case, a serial killer, rapist and burglar who terrorized residents committing at least 13 murders, more than 50 rapes and over 100 burglaries between 1974 and 1986.
A detective somewhere uploads a DNA sample from a crime scene to a genealogy website. That simple file upload identifies a suspect that may have stayed hidden for decades.
And it's getting easier for detectives to 'catch a break,’ because every day thousands of people upload their most personal information to a DNA database.
People can learn their family's origin story, and locate relatives anywhere in the world. But that requires the surrender of privacy. Not just the person taking the test, but anyone sharing a strain of DNA.
In most cases, police recover DNA from a crime scene. Create a free account at the website GEDmatch. Submits the sample and in a few days or weeks they have a long list of family members. Detectives then use other investigative tools such as census data, obituary's, Facebook to examine each person until they can narrow things down to a suspect.
In the Golden State killer case, detectives used the tactic to arrest Joseph DeAngelo who had never been arrested, his DNA had never been collected. But one of his third cousins spit in a tube and submitted it to a DNA genealogy database.
Detectives around the country are quickly using the tools to solve murder and rape cases that have gone cold. But anyone can use the GED match DNA search. It only requires a simple email registration to access the database.